In a review for Teen Vogue, writer Cat Cardenas unpacks the sophomore album from Dua Lipa, Future Nostalgia, and examines why it’s a perfect record for this uncertain time.
Listen, no one plans to release a record in the middle of a global pandemic. In fact, some artists are actively avoiding it. It’s been a scary, uncertain past few weeks, but if there was ever a time to dance away your worries, it might just be when it feels like the world has turned upside-down.
It feels like an eternity has passed between the release of Dua Lipa’s second single, “Physical,” and the release of her sophomore album, Future Nostalgia, but in reality, it’s only been about two months. Obviously, a lot has changed since January, and moments of relief have been fleeting, but in the words of the pop queen herself, “music is what we need” right now. So rather than delay her album release, she bumped it up by a week.
Last year was a big year for Dua. She snagged her first two Grammys, split from longtime boyfriend Isaac Carew, dyed her hair platinum blond (we’ve all been there), started dating Anwar Hadid, and completely wiped her Insta after teasing the world with her lead single, “Don’t Start Now,” — the perfect answer to her 2017 smash hit, “New Rules.” Back then, she was offering up a step-by-step guide to help anyone trying to say no to a toxic ex, but now she’s here to make sure that ex knows his place, because amid the ‘80s synth-pop chorus and groovy bass line, she’s moved on, and she’s ready to get out on the dance floor again.
Dua followed up the release of “Don’t Start Now” with the futuristic dancercise-inspired song, “Physical,” and then “Break My Heart,” which features a glittery chorus over a staccato bass rhythm, just days before her album dropped on March 27. The aptly named album isn’t lacking in nostalgic references. Disco strings pepper the tracks, while thick, funky bass lines accent the singer’s tightly-produced vocals. Make no mistake, the international pop princess has come into her own on this record.
Most of the album’s 11 songs are a celebration of love without inhibition. While some might’ve expected a breakup album (“Don’t Start Now” and “Good in Bed” will help satisfy that craving), songs like “Cool” delve into the feeling of a new love with a youthful, reckless energy. The song’s plucky synth and drum samples contrast with the bright, airy delivery of her vocals, while the coy, seductive track “Pretty Please” leans into the deeper range of her mezzo voice as she begs, “Pretty please (Every single night)/I need your hands on me (When your kisses climb, oh, you give me)/Sweet relief.”